Stephanie Robinson answers your rental questions

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Have your say

Exercising your rights is a minefield if you don’t know the rules. In this month’s column, Stephanie Robinson looks at how people living in flats can have their say and shows landlords how to spot a good tenant...

I have heard that if you live in a block of flats you have a ‘right to manage.’ What does this mean?

Since the introduction of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, flat owners have been able to take over the management of their building – the ‘right to manage.’

This act allows leaseholders to take the responsibility away from ineffective landlords, without having to prove fault.

Forming a right to manage company (RTM) gives tenants full control over any decisions relating to the running of the building.

Tenants are not required to pay any compensation to the landlord but they will be responsible for any costs he incurs as part of the right to manage process.

Someone has to act as director and is required to collect funds from other tenants. This will take a degree of personal time, as the company will become responsible for all of the building’s financial obligations as soon as it is formed. The landlord is entitled to membership of the RTM company and has one vote for every flat he owns.

A word of caution – during the handover period, some essential contracts maybe in a state of uncertainty, for example, lift maintenance and fire alarms. Liability for these is not defined and a degree of co-operation is required to ensure a smooth changeover.

Where there is a tight-knit community, a RTM company is ideal, as it enables tenants to have an equal input into how their flats are run. Appointing a management agent maybe a satisfactory solution to the problems outlined above.

Where will I find a suitable tenant for my rented property?

There are several options available to you. You could place an advert in a local newspaper, use the internet or try traditional methods – shop windows, supermarket notice boards or a local letting agent.

You should think about the kind of tenant you would want and how their lifestyle would affect your neighbours. For example, try not to move a family with young children into a house next to someone elderly.

Resist the temptation to take the first people that turn up. Make sure you are happy with them – it is worth missing a couple of weeks’ rent to find someone trustworthy. When you have a prospective tenant, carry out checks before they sign the tenancy agreement. Ask for proof of identity and if possible, their National Insurance number, details of previous tenancies and income, etc.

Acquiring information about previous tenancies will enable you to obtain references. If the tenant agrees, you could even visit them at their current address to check how well they look after their home.

Once I have found a tenant, what can I do to ensure the smooth running of the tenancy agreement?

Before you let the tenant into the property, make a detailed list of everything in the home and its condition. Take photographs of every room, which should be signed, along with the list, by you and the tenant.

Give a copy of this inventory, your telephone number and emergency contact details to the tenant, along with a copy of the gas safety and energy performance certificates, plus the prescribed information about your preferred tenancy deposit scheme.

Agree to visit regularly at first to make sure everything is OK and display your contact details prominently on the property, as they could be useful in an emergency.

Your tenant has a legal right to your details so they can report problems or inform you in writing that they want to leave. When the tenant moves in, you will probably keep a spare set of keys – this does not mean you can come and go as you please. The tenant can change the locks if they wish and not give you a key.

You do have the right, however, to check repairs, but you must give the tenant at least 24 hours’ notice and it must be at a time that suits you both.

Stephanie Robinson is a solicitor specialising in property and commercial litigation at Sheffield’s Taylor&Emmet LLP. Telephone 0114 218 4000 or visit www.tayloremmet.co.uk and www.landlorddisputes.co.uk.